The politics of Black gun ownership in the USA
David L. Horne, Ph.D ow oped | 8/15/2019, midnight
To many White Americans, particularly in the South, Black folks with guns has always been problematic.
This is the case in spite of the fact that Black folks at arms have always been a benefit and help to this country, including before we were a country. Black folks with guns helped to convince the British to sue for peace during the colonial wars and the American fight for independence.
Although it is rarely taught in our public schools, Black patriots fought, often in organized companies, as fiercely against the British as did the better-known Paul Revere and other Colonial War heroes/sheroes.
In fact, Blacks with guns have regularly defended this country time and again, and have participated in every war this country has fought. They were acknowledged heroes/sheroes of the War of 1812, which actually gave the USA its sovereignty as a nation-state.
The fear and distaste certain white Americans developed and now regularly harbor regarding Black folks with guns is directly related to slave-owning and fear of slave revolts. In fact, the Second Amendment’s principal author, James Madison, took that into account as he, a slave holder himself, penned that famous constitutional amendment.
Though there are several federal laws which later sought to control and destabilize the dreaded KKK and other white-based groups of terror in the USA, it is actually much more important that Blacks with guns started shooting back that decreased Klan activity in the South. There was little federal protection for Black folks’ lives in this country before the 13th amendment, during Reconstruction, and thereafter.
It remains a fact of life in the USA that the quickest path to death by police shooting for Black Americans—particularly Black men—is on-the-spot police belief that a Black person is armed. We can remember the recent example (2016) of Philando Castile in Minnesota, who, after informing police officers during a routine traffic stop that he had a license to carry a gun, was then shot by one of those policemen as Mr. Castile reached towards his glove compartment to get his wallet, as instructed by one of the policemen. Police in the USA regularly shoot as a first response to control confrontations with Black men who are thought to be armed.
However, even with that being the case, Black folks in general having guns is a serious deterrent to mass shootings of Black people in this country. That’s why the 2015 registration of the National African-American Gun Association (NAAGA) by founder Phillip Smith, remains important. Today, the group has over 45,000 members in at least 95 chapters nationally, and it is still growing. Its charter defines that it is a civil rights organization for gun training, advocacy and self- protection.
The latest stats of Americans with guns shows that there are more guns owned by the overall population than there are citizens in this country: 359 million people and over 393 million guns. At least 1 in 4 citizens have reported that they keep and/or own one or more guns in their household, and at least 24 percent of Black Americans admit to the same.
As the NAAGA organization contemplates becoming a national Political Action Coalition to promote better understanding between police and Black gun owners, and to back political candidates, its role and significance is growing. There are millions of African Americans now going to gun ranges and who frequent gun clubs.
Overall, this seems to be a positive development. Even for those in the Black community who oppose guns and who see them as only trouble, it is becoming unavoidable to recognize the value of self-protection through gun ownership and registration. Being strategically well-armed works as a deterrent against being harmed. It’s simple logic.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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